For the past few years, many of the large employers across the country have had to face the possibility of redefining what they consider to be “work.” The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not provide a definition of “work,” although the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) does define a “workday” as beginning with the first “principal activity” the employee performs and ending with the last “principal activity” they perform. But what can and cannot be considered a “principal activity” has long been debated between employers and their workers.
In general, anything that is required by the employer and provides a direct benefit to the employer qualifies as a “principal activity,” but the courts continue to go back and forth about the kinds of activities that meet this requirement. For example, many employees argue that the time they spend putting on protective gear when they’re required to wear it while performing their jobs constitutes a principal activity, and as such, they should be paid for that time. Not every employer agrees with that assertion and the DOL itself has gone back and forth on whether employees should be paid for that time.
Recently, Broadspectrum Downstream Services, Inc., a refinery formerly known as Timec, agreed to settle a lawsuit filed against it by a class of employees alleging they were illegally denied wages for the time they spent performing required activities before clocking in for their shifts. In addition to putting on the required protective gear and getting the necessary tools, this unpaid time allegedly also included attending safety meetings and traveling to locations within the refineries.
The parties recently agreed to settle the wage and hour lawsuit for $3.45 million. That settlement will cover the claims of approximately 2,000 current and former employees of Broadspectrum who worked for the refinery as laborers and safety attendants any time between September 20, 2010, and the day the court grants preliminary approval of the settlement agreement.
If the settlement does receive preliminary approval from a judge, the attorneys plan on asking for as much as 30% of the total settlement amount to cover their fees, as well as the legal costs they incurred in pursuing the matter. They are also asking for Kevin Woodruff, the lead plaintiff who filed the class action lawsuit, to receive $10,000 as a service award.
In addition to claiming violations of California’s labor laws, the wage and hour lawsuit, which was filed in 2014, is also alleging that Broadspectrum violated unfair competition laws. By requiring its employees to perform tasks for which they were never paid, Broadspectrum allegedly gained an unfair advantage over its competition by illegally saving money on wages that should rightfully have gone to its employees. That money could then be listed as profit and potentially invested back into the company for further developments. That created additional resources the company allegedly would not have had if it had been paying its employees for all the time they spent performing tasks that were mandated by the company.
The Chicago non-compete agreement and employment law attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims by waiters and bus boys and other restaurant and hotel workers against national restaurant chains including Hilton, W, Marriott, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Extended Stay America, Staybridge Suites, Best Western, HomeTown Buffet, Old Country Buffet, Applebees, Chipotle, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel, Outback Steak House, Taco Bell, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s and hotels for mis-classifying employees as managers or assistant managers, forcing employees to work off the clock at business, failing to share all tips, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim these wage theft practices call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.
The Chicago class action attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Oak Lawn and Naperville. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.
Our Skokie, Arlington Hts. and Elmhurst overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers mis-classify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.
The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.